F-35 cost per plane could nosedive

F35A Lightning ii

The US Defence Department and defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin are close to a deal on a US $9 billion (A $11.8 billion) delivery of F-35 warplanes.

According to Reuters, if the deal is secured, it will bring the cost per plane down to US $100 million. In the long term, the Pentagon expects to spend US $391 billion to buy 2,443 of the supersonic warplanes.

However, Lockheed Martin’s program manager, Jeff Babione, has previously said that the price per plane would only drop per US$100 million with the delivery of the 10th low rate production bunch.

Whether or not the potential cost reduction could have implications for Australia, which has committed to purchasing 72 F35-A aircraft as part of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program is still uncertain at this point. The first squadron is expected to be operational by 2021 and all 72 by 2023, at a total cost of $A 7.2 billion.

The Australian government has previously been criticised for the cost of the project and not taking into consideration the many technical problems that plague the program.

The report said that there are “significant, well-documented deficiencies resulting in overall ineffective operational performance … “hundreds of which will not be adequately addressed with fixes and corrections verified with flight testing.”